I’ve been speaking to some non-UK nationals about homelessness in Brighton and Hove.
Last year I met a student from Holland who was staying in Brighton and Hove for the winter to study, he was studying homelessness and rough sleepers. He spent so much time with rough sleepers observing and learning. He went back to Holland with his results which painted a realistic gloomy view of the homelessness issues in Brighton and Hove.
We know that we have 144 official rough sleepers but what about the extended community within the homeless sub-culture? these are people living in hostels, people who are now homed and left without support and therapy to fully recover.
We know that we have a very visible issue on the streets of Brighton right now, as I am writing this blog I am tucked up in bed with a horrid chest infection, warm under my duvet and only a few feet away from the kettle to make some honey and lemon hot water.
I was speaking to a rough sleeper last night, he is 19 years old. He also has a chest infection but does not have to comforts we are privileged to have today.
He will be walking the streets all day to get warm.
He will be begging or doing criminal activities to survive.
He is slowly dying inside and at risk of assault or sexual abuse. How can this be right?
The homeless are five times more likely to attend A&E than the average Brighton and Hove resident, most die in their forties.
Non-UK Citizens in Shock Horror at Brighton and Hove Homelessness Issue
So back to this guy, who is quite cute, he has recently arrived from Spain with an open mind as to what he will find in the city and has taken up full-time work in a restaurant working 40 hours a week. He works in the city centre and can see first-hand the homelessness crisis bringing doom and gloom to the streets of Brighton.
He said “In my whole life I’ve never seen this, people sleeping on the streets, we do not have this where I am from”.
This is something I am hearing more and more often, many of the volunteers we see helping out with grassroots groups are people from other countries in Europe, this number is increasing which is great.
He then said “There no help by the government?”
I laughed out loud and coughed everywhere with this stinking cold, as if! Since the Conservatives came into power rough sleeping has doubled.
These people who come to live in the UK from Europe, they come to learn English, they work hard, long hours and see the carnage on the streets as totally unbelievable and unnecessary. Why? because they don’t have this, yet they have much higher unemployment levels than the UK.
It doesn’t make sense, that is until you factor in the freeze in wages, the increase in living costs and most importantly the high rents and lack of new council housing being built. We have different societies, they have cheaper food, cheaper rent and a system in Spain which helps those who have fallen on hard times.
How do we clean up the streets?
I certainly recommend people check out the Sussex Partnership, headed up by Jim Deans and a community of volunteers those of you from across Europe or locals who want to help tackle the homelessness crisis should start with him.
The Sussex Partnership feed the most homeless in the city, they can be found at the clock tower in Churchill square every Sunday, to get involved and help feed and get to know the real people behind the stigma, drop by! Check out a recent Argus article about the work done by the Sussex Partnership here.
We also have OPSafe – which does some wonderful things in the city including the Rucksack Project which provides the homeless with life-saving footwear and suitable clothing to help rough sleepers warm and dry. Sometimes the people who make up the rucksacks leave little messages of inspiration for the homeless or give them creative items to keep their minds active. One of the organisers said:
“its the little things that make a real difference, the human touch”.
There are many initiatives in Brighton and Hove designed to help the homeless, I would recommend looking for those organisations and groups who have volunteers with lived experience of homelessness. Do this as a start before, even considering some of the larger charities that get huge amounts of funding.
Homeless people have their own culture, a sub-culture within our society which is marginalised. Rough sleepers are often abused or ridiculed by those in our society who clearly demonstrate that they have no sense of compassion, but so many people within a minority, culture are being left behind to die.
As recently reported the Brighton Centre to be used as homeless night shelter this winter 30 new places will make a very small difference, but the idea come from the local community originally. Brighton and Hove News reported this:
“The places at the shelter will be allocated from referrals by outreach workers from St Mungo’s and BHT (Brighton Housing Trust). The outreach workers will also offer support to those staying at the shelter, linking them to services and sources of support across Brighton and Hove.”
Talk about taking over from the little people, the establishment keeping their funding options closed to a small number of charities, who by the way have an invite-only selection process if you want to get involved in their Galvanise Project. A tick box exercise designed to keep the tills ringing.
No worries the grassroots community are staying away from this project and setting up there own emergency pop up shelter, which will help 60 people sleeping with. They have no help from the council, they don’t get one of the empty buildings or funding from the council, its being entirely funded and crowdsourced by locals for all homeless.
They want to save lives, not use those lives!